Dr R Alan Aitken

Dr R Alan Aitken


Researcher profile

+44 (0)1334 46 3865



Alan completed BSc (1979) and PhD (1982) degrees at the University of Edinburgh, the latter on pyrolysis of cyclic sulfones with Dr Ian Gosney and Prof. John Cadogan. From 1982-84 he was a Fulbright postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Albert I. Meyers at Colorado State University, Fort Collins. In October 1984 he came to St Andrews as a Royal Society Warren Research Fellow and was successively Lecturer (1989), Senior Lecturer (1997) and Reader (2018) in organic chemistry. During his time in St Andrews, Alan has spent a period on sabbatical at the University of Texas, Austin (1994), been a Teaching Fellow at the University of Hong Kong (1999) and had short spells as Visiting Professor at Kuwait University (2002) and the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad (2012). He has had a prominent role in Health and Safety, acting as the University Chemical Hazards Adviser continuously since 1990 and chairing the University Health and Safety Committee 2001-2003. He has been School Safety Coordinator for Chemistry 1985-1993, 1994-2003 and 2016-2021, and has also edited the weekly School Newsletter since 2003. He was Chairman of the Tayside Local Section, Royal Society of Chemistry 1991-94 and 2011-17. Much of his research activity has been in the area of heterocyclic chemistry and he has been active in the International Society of Heterocyclic Chemistry, attending all but two of their biennial congresses since 1985, contributing an annual review chapter to Progress in Heterocyclic Chemistry since 1990 and being an elected member of their International Advisory Committee 1997-99 and 2011-17. Since 2018 he has been a member of the Executive Committee and Publicity Chair for ISHC and currently maintains their web site (http://www.ishc-web.org) in St Andrews.


Alan contributes to teaching at all levels with 9 lectures on chemistry in food production in CH1301 The Impact of Chemistry, 6 hours workshop on literature searching in CH3431 Chemistry Workshop, 9 lectures on heterocyclic chemistry in CH4614 Heterocyclic and Pericyclic Chemistry (also delivered in distance learning format as CH4456), 6 lectures on fragrance and flavour chemistry in CH4615 Fragrance, Food and Colour Chemistry and 9 lectures on carbenes, nitrenes and arenes in CH5613 Reactive Intermediates. He also presents 6-lecture advanced courses for postgraduates on Chemistry of Phosphorus and Related Elements and Chemistry of Sulfur and Related Elements in alternate years. Since 1984 he has supervised over 70 Honours Research Projects (CH4442 and 5441) and acted as monitor for over 25 External Placement students (CH4441).

Research areas

Synthetic and mechanistic organic chemistry including heterocyclic chemistry, synthetic use of flash vacuum pyrolysis, asymmetric synthesis, reactive intermediates, organophosphorus and organosulfur chemistry

For more information see the RAA Group Website: http://chemistry.st-and.ac.uk/staff/raa/group/

PhD supervision

  • Dheirya Kalpesh Sonecha
  • Fiona Marie Fotherby

Selected publications


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